Don't Miss in Christchurch
Re:START Mall: To give new life to businesses affected by the 2011 earthquake, the Re:START Mall was created to be home to boutiques, restaurants and other attractions of interest to visitors. The mall was constructed out of shipping containers. As with most innovations in New Zealand, it is surprisingly upbeat and funky and certainly worth a trip if you're an avid shopper.
Gap Filler: In a similar vein, the Gap Filler organisation hosts creative and fun activities, exhibits and more, in places awaiting post-earthquake reconstruction. Past event offerings have included temporary saunas, a butterfly garden, Gap Golf and Dance-O-Mat. Check for what's coming up while your ship is in town.
Cathedral Square: Called "the Square" by residents, it's dominated by the neo-Gothic Christchurch Cathedral, which was badly damaged in the quakes. However, it remains a great place to experience the city's vibe, with a number of cafes and bars in the vicinity. Check out the huge, 18-metre-tall metal sculpture, the Chalice, which commemorates the millennium. The cathedral has been deconsecrated, and there are plans for partial demolition. Standing in for it as a place of worship is what the locals call The "Cardboard Cathedral," which opened in 2013, stands in as a place of worship and incorporates images from Christchurch Cathedral's original rose window, a poignant reminder for many. (Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; donations encouraged)
Avon River and Antigua Boatshed: Take a stroll along the weeping willow-lined Avon River, or rent a punt or canoe at the historic Antigua Boatshed. Built in 1882, this is the last shed standing on the riverbank. The Boat Shed Cafe serves breakfast and lunch and provides picnic baskets for meals on the river. (2 Cambridge Terrace; 03-366-6768; open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. October to March and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. rest of the year)
Christchurch Botanic Gardens: One of the largest city parks in the world, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens on Rolleston Avenue, about a 10-minute walk from Re:Start Mall, is renowned for its 19th-century trees. The gardens boast more than 10,000 specimens of indigenous and imported plants. A multipurpose visitor centre is located at the nursery site in the gardens and opens out onto a lawn area and banks of the Avon River. Find out about walking tours, displays, horticultural information and botanical books. The gardens also feature impressive fountains and artwork. (Open 7 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. daily)
Christchurch Art Gallery: The gallery has been closed since suffering extensive damage, but plans are in place for reopening in December 2015. The impressive architectural structure is home to the largest art institution on the South Island and one of New Zealand's most important public art collections, featuring more than 5,500 items, which include paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, glass, metalwork and photography. The gallery also hosts a wide variety of compelling art exhibitions. (Worcester Boulevard and Montreal Street; 03-941-7300)
Canterbury Museum: Housed in one of New Zealand's most historic buildings, the Canterbury Museum features excellent Maori and Antarctic galleries. It is famous for its kiwi bird artefacts and moa bones, with one of the largest collections from the moa hunting period. The extinct moa was an indigenous, flightless bird that measured up to 12 feet tall and weighed up to 500 pounds. The building is located within strolling distance of the Botanic Gardens, the Arts Centre,Christchurch Art Gallery and Cathedral Square. (Rolleston Avenue, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April to September and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. other months; donation appreciated)
Christchurch Gondola: Outside the city center, the Christchurch Gondola offers visitors panoramic views from high atop the city from a perch 1,500 feet above sea level. Stunning 360-degree views extend to Pegasus Bay and the Pacific Ocean to the town of Kaikoura, as well as over Banks Peninsula, Lake Ellesmere and Lyttelton Harbour and across the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps. At the summit, find hiking and biking trails, guided walks, exhibitions, a cafe and restaurant and the Time Tunnel ride, a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the region. The Gondola Shuttle operates daily and departs the central city from outside the Canterbury Museum on Rolleston Avenue at: 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. The shuttle departs the gondola on the hour during the morning and on the half hour during the afternoon. (10 Bridle Path Road, Heathcote; 03-384-0310)
Banks Peninsula and Akaroa: Dramatically jutting into the ocean southeast of Christchurch, the Banks Peninsula was formed by two volcanic eruptions. The landscape is rugged and wild, yet the area is home to numerous harbours, villages and farmland. The centerpiece is the quaint town of Akaroa, with its cafes and patisseries. This former French settlement and whaling station is rich with Maori and maritime history. Because of the distance and travel times, the Banks Peninsula is best explored as part of an organized shore excursion.
Operation Deep Freeze: Since the 1950s, Christchurch has been the main staging center for Operation Deep Freeze, the U.S. government's Antarctic project. During the Southern Hemisphere's summer months, numerous American Starlifter and Galaxy aircraft fly south to McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
International Antarctic Centre: The International Antarctic Centre features informative displays that depict life and work on the frozen continent. A specially designed "blizzard" room, featuring sub-zero temperatures, a Penguin Encounter enclosure and an exciting 10-minute ride on a Hagglunds all-terrain snowmobile. The centre, located near Christchurch's airport, is a 15-minute drive from the city. The Penguin Express shuttle departs hourly from the Canterbury Museum on Rolleston Avenue -- from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. October to March and ?10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April to September. (38 Orchard Road; 3-357-0519 ; open 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. daily)